Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Ocean Park 5k Race Report

The one thing this year has taught me more than anything is that more is not necessarily better. More miles, more workouts, more core, more auxiliary exercises, more focus on nutrition... yeah, sure, those things are obviously important and should be implemented carefully and appropriately into one's training plan. But is always good to put the pedal to the metal? Competitve runner types are cut from the type of cloth that always seems to need mending, no matter how beautiful or intricate. We're never satisfied. A bad race means we did something wrong and need to go correct it and redeem ourselves; a good race means that our training plan has worked and we're eager to take the next step up in fitness. It's very hard to put that mindset on hold once you're consumed by it. Perhaps it is some lower-level manifestation of the warrior's mentality -- a desire to always fight, compete, and achieve victory.

After Boston this year, I had the desire to redeem myself after blowing up at 30k. I felt I had cheated myself by poor pre-race nutrition and wanted to prove I was in fact a sub-2:20 guy by taking another crack at a bigtime marathon in the fall. I learned in 2011, however, that trying to come back too quickly from Boston was a recipe for epic failure, so I opted instead to take the rest of the spring to come back slowly. Well, that slow comeback has crept into the summer. My aggregrate summer mileage has been the lowest it's been since I started running again in 2007. My workouts have been piecemeal and less substantive. I've raced significantly less and I have spent significantly less time thinking about running in general.

So after more than three weeks off from racing, only a couple of half-assed workouts and an entire week off thrown in there, I approached the Ocean Park 5k with a bit of trepidation. I didn't feel out of shape, but I also didn't feel sharp. I really had no bearing on where my current level of fitness was. During the warmup I thought my breathing was still too heavy and my legs were still a little too sore, so before the start I had my doubts about what I could do. It's a downhill first mile so I didn't want to give away those extra few seconds, but I also didn't want to go out as hard as I did last year (4:37) and die a miserable two-mile-plus death the rest of the way (15:19, you do the math).

When the gun went off I expected Chris and maybe Zolla to stick by my side but I realized I had no company 400 meters in. I tried to find a decent comfort zone and found myself at the mile at 4:41, right about where I wanted. The police escort took a left on the wrong street just after the mile marker and the lead bicycle, piloted by race director, coworker and friend Scott, followed suit. I yelled, "Scott, you sure that's the way?", and he replied, "Yep... wait, nope!" and swerved to get back on course. It wasn't closed to traffic so I had to dive around a few unsuspecting and irritated visitors from Quebec in the first mile-plus, but after cutting onto East Grand the traffic was gone and it was just me and the road (and Scott about 20 yards ahead).

Mile 2 was at 9:32 and I wasn't feeling completely gassed yet, but that last mile is a bit of a pain in the ass with the somewhat sandy trail underfoot. I knew almost exactly how far it was from the last turn into the finish (about 0.15 miles) and I figured that it would take me 40 to 45 seconds to cover the distance depending on how badly I wanted it. When I glanced at my watch and saw 14:15 I knew I had a shot at sub-15 but figured Jon's 2012 time and CR of 14:53 would be nearly impossible to catch at that point. I dug it out harder than I have in a while and managed to cross in 14:56. FINALLY, a sub-15 5k on a course that's not net downhill, a 5k PR I can hang my hat on. It's about friggin' time.

And so it goes... fewer miles, fewer workouts, fewer races, and less mental energy still results in fast times. Who would have thought. There's something to be said for giving your body and mind a break from the warrior's mentality and taking a moment, or a week, or a season, to decompress and enjoy other things just a little bit. I haven't gained fitness this summer but I haven't lost nearly as much fitness as I would have thought given the lack of training; more importantly, I'm certainly not burned out. I'm optimistic about Beach to Beacon on Saturday and my ability to PR and mix it up with the best Mainers this year, and I'm excited to get back to marathon training right after. "Less is more" is not just another boring axiom passed down to you by your wise old uncle... it actually works.

Getting the gang together after the OP 5k (L to R: Aaron, Marc, Erica, Zach, Seth, Josh, myself, Chris and Jon)

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